Behind the Beard: The Science of Facial Hair

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Like a lot of young men today, and like my father before me, I have a beard. My beard is full and awesome, and it has really become a part of my identity over the last decade. A few years ago, I had an unfortunate shaving accident that left me without a proper beard for a couple of weeks, and my whole world changed - my dog treated me like a stranger, my friends and co-workers joked that I’d been replaced with a giant 12-year-old, and my wife threw away my razor to make sure I didn’t have any more shaving accidents in the future. My beard is an important part of who I am.

So, when I came across this article espousing some tangible benefits of facial hair on health and, my curiosity was piqued, and I did some more digging. I didn’t expect to find much, and so I was pleasantly surprised to discover a handful of peer-reviewed articles about beards and mustaches. Some of the findings were pretty intuitive, bordering on obvious. For instance, facial hair can help protect against harmful UV rays, and longer facial hair offers better protection than shorter hair (though neither do a very good job compared to real sunscreen). Another study reported that women judge men with beards to be older and have higher social status than men without beards, though beards didn’t affect attractiveness ratings.

One of the papers stood out from the crowd, in that it tried to explain why men might grow beards in the first place from an evolutionary perspective. Lots of other animals grow facial hair, and one of the most well-known cases is the lion’s mane. Only male lions grow manes, and males without manes are treated very differently than males with manes - they’re attacked more often, have less success with females, among other negative consequences. This suggests that there are survival and reproductive benefits to facial hair. The author proposes that beards might convey similar benefits to people, and specifically suggests that beards might act as a kind of camouflage to protect us from attacks to the fragile parts of our jaw. If you’re a boxer, this should make a lot of sense: one shot to the jaw can quickly incapacitate a person, so there’s a real benefit to making the jaw a little harder for an attacker to target. Of course, these kinds of theories are very tricky to test and disprove, so we may never know if there are survival benefits to facial hair, but it is an interesting idea.

Does this mean that all men should grow beards? Of course not. But if you do have a beard, and if your employer or significant other is giving you a hard time about it, now you can answer their complaints with, “Science says it’s good for me!” Please keep in mind, that none of this research applies to people with handlebar mustaches. I would argue that a handlebar mustache actually increases your chances of injury - in fact, if you have a handlebar mustache, please shave it immediately. I’m just looking out for your safety here.

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Comments

I had been keeping beard

I had been keeping beard since 5 years, but never knew it has so benefits. I think the secret to keep beautiful beard is massaging with oil and keeping beard properly trimmed using a beard trimmer.

I've done my own study....I

I've done my own study....I've always had a mustache but noticed I was getting brushed off or ignored, no one wanted to talk or keep up a conversation....now I have a goatee and everyone wants to talk, they're more friendly, and I'm getting lots more respect from everyone, sooo the goatee will STAY!

Interesting post about hidden

Interesting post about hidden benefits of beards. Beard also have antibacterial properties! I think if maintained well, then beards are the best past to encourage men for a fashion trend. Yes, I do understand that its better to shave regularly. But as there are many beard grooming products like beard oils, spray and therapies and techniques available to manage beards, then there should not be any problem related to the facial hair grooming. Over the past few years, more and more men have grown out their facial hair in many different ways, and some even compete to have the longest beard or the most stylized.

I think you fail to

I think you fail to understand the evolutionary approach. It's quite simple realy, facial hair advertises that a boy is ready to procreate, it is indicative of his physical development and because it is on the part of a body that is most seen (better advertisement than pubic hair).

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